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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SEMIARID RANGELAND ECOSYSTEMS: THE CONSERVATION-PRODUCTION INTERFACE

Location: Rangeland Resources Research

Title: Prescribed Fire, Grazing and Herbaceous Plant Production in Shortgrass Steppe

Authors
item Augustine, David
item Derner, Justin
item Milchunas, Daniel -

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 15, 2009
Publication Date: May 26, 2010
Repository URL: http://parking.nal.usda.gov/shortterm/21060_27.Augustineetal.2010-REMfirepaper.pdf
Citation: Augustine, D.J., Derner, J.D., Milchunas, D.G. 2010. Prescribed Fire, Grazing and Herbaceous Plant Production in Shortgrass Steppe. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 63(3):317-323.

Interpretive Summary: We examined the influence of prescribed fire and livestock grazing on soil resources and plant growth in shortgrass steppe in northeastern Colorado. Burning was implemented in March, prior to the onset of the growing season. During the first post-burn growing season, burning had no influence on soil moisture and did not affect soil nitrogen (N) availability in spring (April – May) but significantly enhanced soil N availability in summer (June – July). Burning had no influence on forage production in the first post-burn growing season, but did enhance in vitro dry matter digestibility of blue grama forage in late May. For the second post-burn growing season, we found no difference in herbaceous plant production between sites that were burned and grazed in the previous year versus sites that were burned and protected from grazing in the previous year. Our results provide further evidence that prescribed burns conducted in late winter in dormant vegetation can have neutral or positive consequences for livestock production due to a neutral effect on forage quantity and a short-term enhancement of forage quality. In addition, or results indicate that with conservative stocking rates, deferment of grazing during the first post-burn growing season is not necessary to sustain plant productivity.

Technical Abstract: We examined the independent and combined effects of prescribed fire and livestock grazing on soil resources and herbaceous plant production in shortgrass steppe in northeastern Colorado. Burning was implemented in March, prior to the onset of the growing season. During the first post-burn growing season, burning had no influence on soil moisture and did not affect soil nitrogen (N) availability in spring (April – May) but significantly enhanced soil N availability in summer (June – July). Burning had no influence on herbaceous plant production in the first post-burn growing season, but did enhance in vitro dry matter digestibility of blue grama forage sampled in late May. For the second post-burn growing season, we found no difference in herbaceous plant production between sites that were burned and grazed in the previous year versus sites that were burned and protected from grazing in the previous year. Our results provide further evidence that prescribed burns conducted in late winter in dormant vegetation can have neutral or positive consequences for livestock production due to a neutral effect on forage quantity and a short-term enhancement of forage quality. In addition, or results indicate that with conservative stocking rates, deferment of grazing during the first post-burn growing season is not necessary to sustain plant productivity.

Last Modified: 9/21/2014
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